It is perfectly fitting that this first post should be about something very odd, but hopefully interesting and useful. Anyone familiar with foraging in Hawaii or Florida has probably spied a bush loaded with red berries. And, anyone brave enough to taste the berry would have a reaction based upon the exact stage of ripeness of the fruit. At any stage other than being ripe enough to drop off its stem, this fruit will be very sour and quite bitter. However, when you can easily remove the fruit without twisting it off its stem, it is deliciously sweet and tart with a pleasing vegetal aftertaste, and just a slight note of bitterness (tannins). Sounds like a wine description, doesn’t it? Not being wine makers, we decided to attempt to make flavored Vodka to capture this unique and perishable fruit.
But first, more about the plant and its fruit. It is not well known and we had to search for it based upon its shape.
We tried lantern berry because of its resemblance to an Asian Lantern. Wrong fruit. Then we typed pumpkin berry and, Eureka, up popped a photo with the caption Pumpkin Cherry. Turns out it is called variously Pitanga, Surinam Cherry, Cayenne Cherry, or Brazilian Cherry and is native to tropical South America’s east coast. It seems to produce continuous crops of fruit year round in Hawaii, and in enormous quantities. The health benefits are described in glowing terms which means Pitanga flavored Vodka could be a health drink.
Now, back to the Vodka experiment. First, the cherries go in the fridge overnight which has the effect of making them sweeter with lesser notes of bitter and sour. Then wash eight (8) cups of the fruit, crush the delicate little things, and make sure to remove each pit (just like a cherry pit, hence its name) because some people say the pit is poisonous. Traveling to France on the Lafayette French Line
Place the crushed fruit in a large glass container (it would probably stain plastic) and cover with 750ml of good quality Vodka. Refrigerate for one week and stir it up every couple of days (sure, take a sip of your alcoholic brew each time). Strain, filter through coffee filters, bottle it up, and keep it in your freezer or fridge.
(You do know that Costco American Vodka is amazing stuff, don’t you? It is our first choice as the base for flavored Vodka and a good substitute for Chopin brand.)
The color is amazing. If Chabernet were an actual wine, it would probably be this color. What – you thought Chabernet was real?
Serving suggestions: The resemblance to Campari is easy to see, so try this hooch as a substitute in a Campari and soda, Campari with fresh Orange Juice, or our favorite, in an Aperitivo. We drink Aperitivo consisting of Prosecco with a splash of Aperol or Campari whenever we’re in Italy or when at home and longing for Italy. The Italians also call this drink a Spritz and many folks enjoy this beverage as the sun sets.
Aperol is 11% alchohol and Campari is 24%. Your Vodka hooch will be closer to 30 or 40%, so be forewarned to use less and don’t pass out before the sun sets.